The impact of the pandemic, uncertain economic environment, and burnout experienced by nearly two-thirds (60%) of Australian knowledge workers in the last year, have changed what employees want from their leaders, according to new Slack research.

The study, Leadership and the war for talent, found that stability (51%) and having a good manager (29%) are now more important than salary (28%) when it comes to choosing the company they work for. 

Survey respondents also identified teamwork and collaboration (47%), flexible work (38%), employee wellbeing (37%), and transparent and trustworthy leadership (36%) as the top factors driving organisational success – all valued more highly than financial achievement (28%). When it comes to flexible working, over half of respondents (58%) said they want to be trusted to do their job regardless of location or the hours worked.  

“The rhythm of work already had an irregular heartbeat before the pandemic – we just weren’t aware of how much time we were, and still are, spending on non-productive tasks,” Slack country manager for Australia and New Zealand, Nicole Woodley said.

“We are continuing to go through one of the biggest workplace experiments in the last 100 years as we move from offices to hybrid work, and see factors like trust, wellbeing and soft skills take on as much meaning as financial success and salary. The rewards are clear – greater productivity, a reduction in burn out and better staff retention. We are not at our final destination yet, and what this survey revels are key areas where leaders can get on the front foot.”

Poor leadership leads to burnout, quiet quitting 

The research draws a clear link between poor leadership and a dip in employee morale and productivity. Only half of the respondents say they feel ‘inspired’ by their leaders (53%), and the same number deem leaders as ‘stuck in their ways’. Worryingly, just over a third (39%) do not feel their leader is concerned for their psychological safety.

‘Quiet quitting’ is strongly linked to poor leadership as well. Those with poor managers are far more likely to feel burnt out (75% as compared to 54% for good leaders), and ‘quiet quit’ (27% compared to 6%).

According to the study, employees with poor or average leaders feel they have much less of a voice than if they had good leaders (80% as compared to 23%). Similarly, these employees also feel they have less autonomy (48% vs. 74% amongst those with good leaders), less of a good culture (23% vs. 78%) and that there is more of a disconnect between leaders and employees (79% vs. 46%).

Collaboration technology as potential ‘power tools’

The Slack study showed a strong correlation between those respondents that hold their leaders in high regard and those whose leaders embrace the use of collaborative technology. Interestingly, these respondents were also identified as being highly connected to their organisations. Contrastingly, those respondents who deemed their leaders as technology laggards in this area are also more likely to quit their job.

Nearly two-thirds of Aussie knowledge workers surveyed saw collaboration tools as being of utmost importance to their organisation (65%). The key benefits that respondents attributed to collaborative technology included being more productive (65%), getting information to the right people quickly (41%), improving communication with leadership (31%), and speeding up the implementation of projects (31%).

Cooling down the burnout

The research also showed some clear differentiation between what knowledge workers in different industries are feeling and looking for.

Retail workers reported the lowest levels of confidence in their leaders and are one of the most dissatisfied with their jobs, most of which are likely to be on-site. They are also most likely to participate in quiet quitting (15%). They want greater focus on wellbeing (39%), empathetic leaders (27%) and great employee experience (30%).